Predicting exactly how the courts will split your assets in a divorce usually isn’t possible, but you can at least get an idea for what is available by looking over your marital assets and determining what is separate property.

The Colorado family courts typically split assets and debts into two categories. Separate property belongs solely to one spouse, while marital property is subject to division between the spouses.

Both assets and debts can be marital property or separate property. Certain things, like inheritances or gifts from someone other than your spouse, are often separate property. However, there are circumstances in which your actions might make your separate property vulnerable to division in a divorce.

Problems arise when you commingle assets

Separate property must be kept separate in order to avoid claims by the spouse that it doesn’t originally belong to. That usually means maintaining a separate account for financial assets.

People who give their spouses access to or control over an account with separate property in it, possibly by giving them a debit card attached to the account, may find that their spouse claims partial ownership of the account later on if they divorce. The same is true is for circumstances where you deposit your separate funds into a joint account held by both of you.

Financial or labor contributions can influence property as well

In cases involving assets like a home, a vehicle or a business that was separate property at the time of marriage, it’s possible that you and your spouse may behave in a way that gives your spouse a claim to that property as well.

For example, if your spouse plays a critical role in covering the maintenance and repair cost for a vehicle, paying the taxes on a property or covering ongoing expenses for a business with income from their job, they may be able to claim personal ownership of the property. The same is true if they perform substantial physical labor that helps maintain or improve the value of the property or business.

If you want to claim something as separate property in a divorce, you need to make sure you keep it truly separate during your marriage. Failing to do so could put you in a vulnerable position at the time of divorce, as your spouse may be able to make claims against property that you hope to keep separate.